Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rail Budget 2013: Kalahandi miffed at missing wagon factory

Times of India, Feb 27, 2013
By, TNN | Feb 27, 2013, 04.32 AM IST

BHUBANESWAR: The provision of setting up a railway maintenance workshop at Narla inKalahandi in the Railway Budget evoked mixed reactions here. While some sections of people said a wagon factory would have generated more employment, others expressed satisfaction at the railway ministry's decision.

The Kalahandi Swabhiman Jagaran Sangha, an outfit which has been pressing for a wagon factory, felt disappointed at the decision to set up a maintenance workshop instead. President of the outfit Badri Narayan Patnaik said they would again press for a wagon factory. "We will again move the railway ministry through Kalahandi MP Bhakta Das to demand a wagon factory," he said. 

In 2010, then Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee proposed a wagon factory to be set up in Odisha. Chief minister Naveen Patnaikhad recommended Ganjam for the factory. The railway ministry subsequently decided to set up the wagon factory at Ganjam. 

"Kalahandi, which is considerably more backward than Ganjam, deserves a wagon factory," said Patnaik. Earlier, the Narla Rail Wagon Nirman Sangram Samiti in Kalahandi had also demanded a wagon factory to be set up at Narla. 

"We are happy that Kalahandi found a mention in the budget but we would have been doubly happy had the wagon factory been set up here," said Congress state coordinator of schedule caste cell Debi Prasad Sindoor. He, however, attacked Naveen for delaying the land identification process, which is why, according to him, the wagon factory went to Ganjam. Narla has enough land for a wagon factory, he said. Kalahandi MP Bhakta Das had also accused Naveen of showing apathy towards identifying the land at Narla. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Kalahandi received in Railway Budget 2013-14 !!

Railway Establishment
A Wagon Maintenance Workshop in Kalahandi District

Completion of Rail Line (proposed)
 Lanjigarh road - Junagarh (Balanced)

Extension of Train
Bhubaneswar - Bhawanipatna to Junagarh

New Train
Visakhapatnam - Jodhpur via Kesinga

Train No. of Days Extension (from 2 to 3 days)
Sambalpur - Hazur Saheeb Nanded Nagavalli Express via Kesinga

Survey Line
Titlagarh - Junagarh

Railway Budget 2013: a new wagon maintenance workshop in Kalahandi

Note: Thanks to Kalahandi MP Sri Bhakta Charan Das for taking this issue sincerelyspecial thanks to all the people who put efforts and our MP Bhakta Charan Das since past 3 years for Wagon factory issue, beside our MP there are many people, lawyer, intellectuals, academicians, politicians, young leaders, youth, students, common man etc who also put effort in the local level and raise it for justice irrespective of political parties, we must congratulate them too. When all of us raise the same issue it builds the pressure in political, government and social circle. let us keep this spirit, without thinking of any politics just we put our hand for the cause of Kalahandi, in between some politics may come, but we ignore it and keep working. I hope the work starts immediately in this year.
IBNlive, Feb 26, 2013
Some Achievements/Initiatives
- IR enters the one billion tonne Select Club joining Chinese, Russian and US Railways;
- IR also joins Select Club running freight trains of more than 10000 tonne load;
- 'Fuel Adjustment Component' concept to be implemented linking tariffs with movement of fuel prices;
- Target of Rs 1000 crore each fixed for Rail Land Development Authority and IR Station Development Corporation to be raised through PPP in 2013-14;
- New fund - Debt Service Fund - to be set up to meet committed liabilities of debt servicing for WB and JICA loans for DFC and other future liabilities.
Measures for improving Safety & Security
- Making a Corporate Safety Plan for a ten year period (2014-2024).
- Elimination of 10797 level crossings during the 12th Plan and no addition of new LCs to the IR system henceforth.
- Introduction of Train Protection Warning System on Automatic Signalling Systems.
- Rigorous trials of the indigenously developed Train Collision Avoidance System.
- Using 60 kg rails, 260 meter long welded rail panels and improved flash but welding technology.
- Introduction of 160/200 kmph Self Propelled Accident Relief Trains.
- Induction of crash worthy LHB coaches with anti-climb feature.
- Rehabilitation of identified 17 distressed bridges over next one year.
- Provision of comprehensive fire and smoke detection systems.
- Provision of portable fire extinguishers in Guard-cum-Brake Vans, AC Coaches and Pantry Cars in all trains.
- Use of fire retardant furnishing materials in coaches.
- Measures initiated to deal with elephant related accidents.
- Four companies of women RPF personnel set up and another 8 to be set up to strengthen the security of rail passengers, especially women passengers.
- Recruitment to RPF with 10% vacancies reserved for women.
Rail Based Industries
New factories/workshops to be set up:
- a new Forged Wheel Factory at Rae Bareli in collaboration with Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited.
- a Greenfield Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) manufacturing facility at Bhilwara (Rajasthan) in collaboration with State Government and BHEL.
- a Coach Manufacturing Unit in Sonepat District (Haryana) in collaboration with State Government.
- a Midlife Rehabilitation Workshop at Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh) in collaboration with the State Government.
- Bikaner and Pratapgarh workshops to undertake POH of BG wagons.
- a workshop for repair and rehabilitation of motorized bogies at Misrod (Madhya Pradesh).
- a new wagon maintenance workshop in Kalahandi (Odisha).
- a modern signaling equipment facility at Chandigarh through PPP route.
Green Initiatives
- Setting up of Railway Energy Management Company (REMC) to harness potential of solar and wind energy.
- Setting up of 75 MW capacity windmill plants and energizing 1000 level crossings with solar power.
- Deployment of new generation energy efficient electric locomotives and EMUs.
- More usage of agro-based and recycled paper and ban use of plastic in catering.
Passenger/Rail Users' Amenities
- Identification of 104 important stations for immediate attention to all aspects related to cleanliness.
- Progressive extension of bio-toilets on trains.
- Provision of concrete aprons on platforms with mechanized cleaning facilities.
- Extension of On Board Housekeeping Scheme and Clean Train Stations to more stations and trains.
- Extension of Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS), Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs), Coin-operated Ticket Vending Machines
(CO-TVMs) and scheme of Jan-Sadharan Ticket Booking Sevaks (JTBSs).
- Setting up of six more Rail Neer bottling plants at Vijayawada, Nagpur, Lalitpur, Bilaspur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
- Pilot project on select trains to facilitate passengers to contact on board staff through SMS/phone call/e-mail for coach cleanliness and real time feedback.
- 8-10 more mechanized laundries for quality washing of linen.
- Provision of announcement facility and electronic display boards in trains.
- Providing free Wi-Fi facilities on several trains.
- Upgrading another 60 stations as Adarsh Stations in addition to 980 already selected.
- Associate voluntary organizations for providing first aid services at railway stations.
- Introduction of an 'Anubhuti' coach in select trains to provide excellent ambience and latest facilities and services.
- 179 escalators and 400 lifts at A-1 and other major stations to be installed facilitating elderly and differently abled.
- Affixing Braille stickers with layout of coaches including toilets, provision of wheel chairs and battery operated vehicles at more stations and making coaches wheel-chair friendly.
- Some JTBS to be reserved for disabled people.
- Curbing malpractices in reserved tickets including tatkal scheme.
- Third party audit and tie up with food testing laboratories for food quality control; ISO certified state-of-the-art base kitchens to be set up in railway premises.
- Centralized Catering Services Monitoring Cell set up with a toll free number (1800 111 321)
Rail Tourism
- Launching multi-modal travel package in cooperation with Jammu & Kashmir state government.
- Issuing 'Yatra Parchis' to pilgrims travelling by rail to Mata Vaishno
Devi Shrine at the time of railway ticket booking.
- Introduction of an educational tourist train with concessional fares - 'Azadi Express' - to connect places associated with freedom movement.
- Introduction of executive lounge at 7 more stations, namely, Bilaspur, Visakhapatnam, Patna, Nagpur, Agra, Jaipur and Bengaluru.
IT Initiatives
- 'Aadhar' to be used for various passenger and staff related services.
- Internet ticketing from 0030 hours to 2330 hours.
- e-ticketing through mobile phones.
- Project of SMS alerts to passengers providing updates on reservation status.
- Covering larger number of trains under Real Time Information System.
- Next-Gen e-ticketing system to be rolled out capable of handling 7200 tickets per minute against 2000 now and 1.20 lakh users simultaneously against 40,000 now.
Financial Performance 2012-13
- Loading target revised to 1007 MT against 1025 MT in BE.
- Gross Traffic Receipts fixed at Rs 1,25,680 cr in RE, short by Rs 6,872 cr over Budget Estimates.
- Ordinary Working Expenses retained at BE level of Rs 84,400 cr; pension payments increased by Rs 1,500 cr to Rs 20,000 cr.
- Dividend liability to government to be fully discharged.
- 'Excess' of Rs 10,409 cr as against the budget amount of Rs 15,557 cr.
- Loan of Rs 3,000 cr taken in 2011-12 fully repaid along with interest.
- Operating Ratio of 88.8 per cent as compared to 94.9 per cent in 2011-12.
Budget Estimates 2013-14
- Freight loading of 1047 MT, 40 MT more than 2012-13.
- Passenger growth - 5.2 per cent.
- Gross Traffic Receipts - Rs 1,43,742 cr i.e. an increase of 18,062 cr over RE, 2012-13.
- Ordinary Working Expenses - Rs 96,500 cr.
- Appropriation to DRF at Rs 7,500 cr and to Pension Fund at Rs 22,000 cr.
- Dividend payment estimated at Rs 6,249 cr.
- Operating Ratio to be 87.8 per cent.
- Fund Balances to exceed Rs 12,000 cr.
Annual Plan 2013-14
- Highest ever plan outlay of RS 63363 cr.
- Gross Budgetary Support - Rs 26,000 cr
- Railway Safety Fund - Rs 2,000 cr
- Internal Resources - Rs 14,260 cr.
- EBR - Market Borrowing - Rs 15,103 cr;
- EBR - PPP - Rs 6,000 cr.
- 500 km new lines, 750 km doubling, 450 km gauge conversion targeted in 2013-14.
Fiscal Discipline
- No supplementary Demands for Grants introduced in Monsoon Session or Winter Session of Parliament;
- Loan of Rs 3,000 cr repaid fully;
- 347 projects prioritized with assured funding;
- Operationally important projects and also last mile projects to receive liberal funding;
- A new fund - Debt Service Fund - set up to meet committed liabilities;
- Stringent targets for efficiencies in maintenance of rolling stock and fuel consumption;
- Target to create fund balance of Rs 30,000 cr in the terminal year of the 12th Plan.
Staff Welfare
- Fund allocation for staff quarters enhanced to Rs 300 cr.
- Provision of hostel facilities for single women railway employees at all divisional headquarters.
- Extending treatment facility in case of medical emergency to RELHS beneficiaries to all cities in hospitals empanelled with CGHS and Railways.
- Condition of barracks to be improved for RPF personnel.
- Provision of water closets and air conditioners in the locomotive cabs to
avoid stress being faced by loco pilots.
Training and Recruitment
- 1.52 lakh vacancies being filled up this year out of which 47000 vacancies have been earmarked for weaker sections and physically challenged.
- Imparting skills to the youth in railway related trades in 25 locations.
- Setting up of a multi-disciplinary training institute at Nagpur for training in rail related electronics technologies.
- Setting up of a centralized training institute at Secunderabad - Indian Railways Institute of Financial Management (IRIFM).
- Five fellowships in national universities to be instituted to motivate students to study and undertake research on IR related issues at MPhil and PhD levels.
- Setting up of a chair at TERI promoting railway related research to reduce carbon footprint.
- Railway Teams won 9 National Championships in 2012.
- Railway Sports Promotion Board awarded the 'Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar - 2012'.
- Complimentary card passes to recipients of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Dhyan Chand Awards to be valid for travel by 1st Class/2nd AC.
- Complimentary card passes to Olympic Medalists and Dronacharya Awardees for travel in Rajdhani/Shatabadi Trains.
- Travel by Duronto Trains permitted on all card passes issued to sportpersons having facility of travel by Rajdhani/Shatabadi Trains.
- Facility of complimentary card passes valid in 1st class/2nd AC extended to parents of posthumous unmarried awardees of Mahavir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra, President's Police Medal for Gallantry and Police Medal for Gallantry.
- Police Gallantry awardees to be granted one complimentary pass every year for travel along with one companion in 2nd AC in Rajdhani/Shatabadi Trains.
- Passes for freedom fighters to be renewed once in three years.
- 67 new Express trains to be introduced.
- 26 new passenger services, 8 DEMU services and 5 MEMU services to be introduced.
- Run of 57 trains to be extended.
- Frequency of 24 trains to be increased.
Metropolitan Projects/Sub-urban Services
- Introduction of first AC EMU rake on Mumbai suburban network in 2013-14.
- Introduction of 72 additional services in Mumbai and 18 in Kolkata.
- Rake length increased from 9 cars to 12 cars for 80 services in Kolkata and 30 services in Chennai.
Tariff Proposals
- Proposal for setting up of Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority formulated and at inter ministerial consultation stage.
- Fuel Adjustment Component (FAC) linked revision for freight tariff to be implemented from 1st April 2013.
- Supplementary charges for super fast trains, reservation fee, clerkage charge, cancellation charge and tatkal charge marginally increased.
- Enhanced reservation fee abolished.

Royal Rolls Royce rolls from Kalahandi!

The New Indian Express, Feb 26, 2013

Standing majestically, the Rolls Royce Phantom II (1930 model) of Maharaja of Kalahandi has bagged the best prize in the Preservation Class category at the Cartiers Concours d Elegance, 2013 held at Mumbai recently. The rare vehicle with brocade interiors and bodywork from Thyrupp and Maberly was displayed for the first time in 74 years at the third edition of this biennial event for vintage car enthusiasts.
The event, which started in 2008, has been getting bigger and better with subsequent editions. The cars are displayed under various categories including Pre-War Classics, Post-War Classics, Roadsters, Indian Heritage Classes, Preservation Class, Shikaar Class, Edwardian and Limousine Classes. This year, the show also included vintage motorcycles for the first time.
The Preservation Class, where cars were shown in ‘as found’ condition depicting a story of decades of service, their faded finishes, worn seats, stone chips and rust specks, had about four or five beauties but the Phantom II of Kalahandi hogged the limelight.
Says Maharaja Udit Pratap Deo who received the award along with wife at the show, ‘’it felt fantastic to get such a prestigious title. This car had been bought by my grandfather Maharaja Brij Mohan Deo in 1939. It was a very satisfying feeling when dignitaries like Prince Michael of Kent GCVO, a known car enthusiast, president of Royal Automobile Club and also the chief judge for the show came up and congratulated me for preserving the vehicle so well.’’
The Rolls Royce was, in fact, appreciated by all the judges including Sir Sterling Moss, OBE, known to be world’s greatest race drivers and Professor Peter Stevens, UK’s best known and most sought after international transport and product designers. ‘’Alain De Cadenet, the very popular television presenter for Speed Channel and ESPN, who was the master of ceremonies for the show, rightly told me not to restore the car ever. He said it was like an untouched Picasso painting and the whole world should see it,’’ concludes the Maharaja.

No market linkage, Kalahandi NTFP vollectors left high and dry

The New Indian Express, Feb 26, 2013

26th February 2013 01:33 PM
 For a considerable section of population here, forests are their lifeline.
Kalahandi has 2,331 sq km of forests including 369 sq km of dense forest and 749 sq km moderately dense forest, as per the Forest Survey of India report of 2011.
 There are 1,427 forest fringe villages out of the 2,099 inhabited villages of the district, as reported in the present working plan of the Kalahandi-North and Kalahandi-South divisions.
 And most dwellers of these villages depend on Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) for sustainence. NTFP includes tamarind, Mahua, amla, harida, bahada, reetha, Sal leaves, sabai grass, wooden apples, satabari, neem, karanja seeds, ananta mula, Nageswar flowers, wild turmeric, wild tulsi and Dhatuki flowers.
These have diverse uses, for example in food, fodder, fibre, fertilisers, herbal medicines and even cosmetic products. 
However, the existing State mechanism has been inadequate in assisting the primary collectors of
Even though these items are used by companies to develop highly-priced products that are much in demand in urban markets, the poor collectors fail to reap the profit.
 Ironically, the panchayat samitis of the district have not fixed the minimum support price (MSP) for NTFP since 2010.
In November 2010, MSP of 69 NTFP items were finalised by district administration basing on the price fixed by the blocks and the price chart was released on January 27, 2011. Unfortunately, no step has yet been taken since then for their price revision.
Worse, prices of different items vary from block to block which often results in marketing problems.
 For instance, rate of Mahua flowers per kg declared in Bhawanipatna, Karlamunda, M Rampur, Lanjigarh, and Jaipatna blocks is `31, ` 15, ` 11.50, ` 21 and ` 12 respectively. As far as amla is concerned, price per kg in Bhawanipatna, M Rampur, Narla, Lanjigarh, Kalampur, Thuamul Rampur, Jaipatna blocks is ` 16, ` 7.50, ` 5, ` 8, `19, ` 10 and ` 10 respectively.
 Satyanarayan Pattnaik, secretary of ‘Sebahagat’ - an organisation dealing in empowerment of tribal beneficiaries through livelihood programmees - said there isn’t even any mechanism to monitor marketing system for NTFP.
As a result, NTFP items are sold at throwaway prices and in some interior tribal pockets, barter system is in vogue.  “There is need for systematic steps through government initiative for sustainable harvesting protocols, value addition and appropriate market linkage. Role of gram panchayats is limited only to issue of licence to traders. Unfortunately, fool-proof procurement system with strong market mechanisms and value addition are yet to be evolved,” he said.
Biswanath Hota, a former deputy conservator of forests, said a resource inventory of locally available NTFP is yet to be done.  Similarly, sustainable harvesting of NTFP is not adopted leading to destruction of many species while collecting the products and income from the primary collection is nominal in the absence of value addition of the products. He said Kalahandi has 37 out of 41 threatened medicinal plant species of the State. It is mostly due to lack of sustainable harvesting, protection and promotion of plant species.
 “Massive plantation and preservation of NTFP under various afforestation programmes, training people dependent on NTFP on sustainable harvest and value addition of the products for better income and centralised controlled marketing system can only change the situation,” he said.
The loopholes
* Panchayat samitis of the district have not fixed the MSP for NTFP since 2010
* Worse, prices of
different items vary from block to block, resulting in marketing problems

Faith, beliefs cannot stall green clearance to projects, SC told

SME Times, Feb 22, 2013
SME Times News Bureau | 22 Feb, 2013
The Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) Thursday told the Supreme Court that if beliefs and faiths were allowed to weigh on the statutory and environmental clearances for big ticket projects, then there would be no development.

Senior counsel K.K.Venugopal, appearing for the OMC, made the contention to a bench of Justice Aftab Alam, Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan and Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

"Merely because there is a faith or belief can't be used to deny the clearance for bauxite mining (at Niyamgiri Hills)," Venugopal said while assailing the stand taken by Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran that habitat did not mean just the living place but the customs, religious, social and customary practices of the tribals living around Niyamgiri Hills.

The court had reserved its order on the petition by the OMC challenging the Aug 30, 2010, decision of the union environment ministry denying second stage clearance for bauxite mining from Odisha's Niyangiri Hills, where OMC is a 26 percent stake holder in the joint venture project with Sterlite Industries.

Pointing to the Himalayan ranges, a large part of which was associated with one god or the other and Mount Kailash believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, Venugopal asked whether on the grounds of religious faith and belief, the entire Himalayan ranges would go undeveloped.

Senior counsel C.A.Sundram, appearing for Odisha government, told the court that the forest rights of the tribals which are bone of contention in the case were not nomadic tribes but were village centric.

"Their habitat is village centric though they collect forest produce for their requirements," Sundram told the court implying that rights under the Forest Rights Act could not applicable for them.

Earlier in the course of the hearing, the Central Empowered Committee on environmental matters told the court that the nod for bauxite mining at Niyamgiri Hills for Vedanta Aluminum refinery was subject to the satisfaction of the union environment ministry and the compliance of 18 conditionalities attached to stage one clearance for diversion of 660.749 hectares of forest land for the project.

Amicus curiae A.D.N.Rao appearing for the apex court appointed CEC said that the compliance of the 18 conditionalities that the ministry had tagged with its "in principle clearance" of stage one must be coupled with its satisfaction for the stage two clearance for the bauxite mining at Niyamgiri Hills.

"The apex court can't substitute its satisfaction to the satisfaction to be arrived by the MoEF (ministry of environment and forests)," Rao told the bench.

Replying to the contention that crores of rupees have been spent on the project, senior counsel Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the tribals, said it is a question of existence of tribals and the same could not be exchanged for the pursuit of profit.

Parikh appeared for Prafulla Samantra and others representing Dongria Kondh tribe that would be severely affected by the implementation of the project.

Is govt's case against Vedanta weakening?

Business Standard, Feb 25, 2013
Last week, the ministry of environment and Forests (MoEF) filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in the ongoing Vedanta case, saying the government and not the forest dwellers will have the final say in diversion of forestland for mining projects. Though the affidavit reiterated that Vedanta would not be allowed to undertake bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills in Odisha's Kalahandi district, it may have weakened the government's case against the global mining giant.

When the case was taken up for hearing by the apex court on February 19, counsels of the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMCL) and Sterlite Industries, the Indian arm of Vedanta, strongly countered MoEF's stance in the affidavit that the mining project cannot be allowed because it will violate the fundamental rights of the Dongria Kondhs, a particularly vulnerable tribe that protects and worships the Niyamgiri hills and its forests. The counsels said that the right to worship does not provide rights over the place of worship and that the state can acquire it in public interest.

The state-run OMCL and Sterlite Industries had proposed to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills for Vedanta's alumina refinery in nearby Lanjigarh. The forest clearance for the project was, however, rejected by the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh on the grounds that it violated provisions of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), Environment Protection Act (EPA) and the Forest Rights Act.

Vedanta challenged the decision in 2011, claiming the apex court had already cleared the project in two consecutive judgements in 2007 and 2008 and had considered all the alleged violations under the EPA and FCA. Since, the implementation of FRA started after the 2008 judgement, OMCL and Sterlite Industries insisted their case be heard with respect to the alleged violations of FRA. The court had then asked the government to take a clear stand on what implications the rights of the forest dwellers under the FRA will have on the projects on forestland.

FRA states that forest dwellers cannot be resettled from forestland unless their traditional rights over such land are recognised, and a 2009 order of MoEF had made it mandatory for all the projects which require forestland diversion to obtain consent of the affected village councils. In December last year, the ministry stated in the court that the forest dwellers protected by FRA cannot be displaced. However, in a change of stance on February 15, the ministry said in the court that consent of the people will be required only in cases where "displacement of large number of people" is involved and which "affect the quality of life of the people".

While the ministry did not even mention its 2009 order in the affidavit, it said the mining proposal should not be allowed because Dongria Kondh tribals have been protecting and worshiping Niyamgiri hills for centuries. Counsel of OMCL countered this by saying such rights do not provide right to property over the place of worship for the citizen and the state can acquire such places using its eminent domain.

"FRA mandates that forest dwellers cannot be evicted from the land under their occupation till the recognition and vesting of rights under the Act is complete. This applies to the land under occupation only and not to the undefined territories used by the communities. Recognition of community rights can be a continuous process. Besides, the project is not evicting the tribes from the land under their occupation; the vesting of individual rights is already complete," claimed the counsel of OMCL. The company thus argued FRA cannot be a ground to reject the project.

"The ministry has reduced the whole issue of compliance with FRA to the violation of sacred rights of PTGs in this case. For now, that is the only thing the company has to counter. The ministry cannot make a strong case by saying FRA cannot be violated here but everywhere else the projects can have a way out," says environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta. "It seems the ministry went on the back-foot the moment court asked them to take a clear stand on FRA, saying the law will have great impact in future on various projects across the country," added R Sreedhar of non-profit Mines Minerals and People.

(Re-printed with permission from Down to Earth magazine)

District office of Biju Bikash Bihini inagurated

Reported by Sri Baidyanath Behera
Prameya, Feb 26, 2013

State level Badminton tournament in Dharamgarh: S. Apparao winner, cap Dibyashankar Mishar runners up

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Dharitri, Feb 26, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sunabeda security: Jairam writes to Naveen

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), Feb 23, 2013

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has advised Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to launch a major security operation in Sunabeda sanctuary area in Nuapada district before implementation of development package.
“Sunabeda area also requires a similar (Saranda type) major security operation to secure the area fully. Therefore, security camps will have to be established in and around Sunabeda,” Jairam wrote to Naveen after visiting Nuapada district on February 16.The Union minister said he had already written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard.
Sunabeda requires special focus to contain growing Maoist menace, he said adding if the area security is tightened only then can the development plan be implemented effectively. Referring to the security operations in Saranda forest in Jharkhand, Ramesh said the results had been ‘very positive’.
Security situation in Saranda was first ensured through major operations. Jairam said ` 110 crore has been allotted for 12 gram panchayats under the proposed Sunabeda Development Plan and asked Naveen to direct the department concerned to send proposal at the earliest for necessary action.
He stated while about Rs  40 crore has been earmarked for PMGSY roads in the area, Rs 22.5 crore has been fixed for pucca houses under Indira Awas Yojana. Another Rs 37.5 crore would be spent for construction of five watershed projects and about Rs 10 crore for strengthening livelihood activities.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mines multiply as farmland shrinks

Times of India, Feb 22, 2013
By, TNN | Feb 22, 2013, 03.45 AM IST

BHUBANESWAR: The separate agriculture budget presented for the first time in the assembly has more to it than meets the eye. The government has since begun a publicity blitz, also not done before, highlighting the budgetary provisions, a step seen as a calculated strategy in an election year to woo farmers, a major vote bank crucial for the ruling BJD.

This comes after chief minister Naveen Patnaikrecently said his government would reduce the price of cheap rice from Rs 2 to Re 1 a kilo. The cheap rice will be given to 36,90,119 BPL families and 5,35,402 APL families in eight districts of the Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi region and the boarders of SC and ST hostels and differently-abled persons. The scheme will cost the government Rs 1,312.05 crore, Rs 171.48 crore more than last year. If talks in the BJD circles are any indication, leaders are not very hopeful that rice at Re 1 per kg would fetch the party as much electoral dividend as it gave when it was first introduced before the 2009 Assembly elections. "It is futile to seek logic in a populist scheme, more so when the election is not far off," remarked a senior BJD leader.

The government has all along faced flak for ignoring the agriculture sector and running after industries and mines, which have not paid much dividend. If the latest economic survey is any indication, more than 60% of the state's population depends on agriculture for their sustenance. The net sown area has drastically declined from 56,91,000 hectares to 52,92,000 hectares in the last five years. So is the case with area under food grains falling from 53,19,000 hectares to 47,44,000 hectares and paddy growing area from 40,05,000 hectares to 42,26,000 hectares, all in a span of one year. Paddy production incidentally constitutes 70% of the total cultivated area in the state. The ground reality notwithstanding, the government however claims, as per the report, that the agriculture sector has registered a 16.11 per cent real annual growth. It nevertheless admits food, livelihood and nutrition security are a matter of concern requiring improvement in agricultural production and productivity.

The economic survey report shows how micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) could really provide succour to the vast majority, an area not really treated with priority at the government level. It said 5,505 MSMEs with a paltry investment of Rs 500.73 crore operated in 2011-12 providing employment to nearly 31,000 people.

Odisha under the present BJD regime has always heard of major industries in the pipeline. The only big factory that saw the light was Vedanta refinery in Lanjigarh, which, faced with raw material shortage, downed its shutter in December. The scam-tainted mining sector is a saga of sorrows. The report showed Odisha compared to many major states extracted highest quantity of the mineral resources worth Rs 30,204 crore. Officially, nearly 661 lakh tonnes of iron ore were extracted in 2011-12, of which 134.93 lakh tonnes were exported, the report said. It is no secret that the government's claim of honesty and probity in public life came under question after the mining scam surfaced followed by the Central government ordering a judicial inquiry.

SC reserves judgment on Niyamgiri

Business Standard, Feb 21, 2013
The Supreme Court on Thursday concluded hearing in Niyamgiri mining case. But the court has reserved its judgment.

The apex court has concluded hearing on Thursday. All parties have been asked to submit their written arguments by Monday. The court is expected to pronounce its order in few days, said Saswat Mishra, chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), which had challenged the revocation of forest clearance of the Niyamgiri mine.

On August 24, 2010, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) cancelled the Stage II forest clearance for mining of bauxite at Niyamgiri in Kalahandi district based on N C Saxena panel recommendation which said the mining in the area would severely affect the ecology as well as the primitive tribal group of Dongria Kondhs. Earlier, the OMC had obtained stage-I forest clearance for the mine.

This bauxite mine is critical for the Lanjigarh alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL), which had entered into a joint venture agreement with OMC for operation of the mine to feed its project. VAL has shut down its one million tonne alumina refinery since December 5 citing acute shortage of bauxite to run the plant.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

100-year poverty poser on Vedanta

The Telegraph (Kolkata), Feb 21, 2013
New Delhi, Feb. 20: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre and environmentalists whether they want tribals to live in “abject poverty for the next 100 years” by insisting a Vedanta bauxite mining project shouldn’t come up in Odisha’s Niyamgiri Hills.
“If the tribals are offered modern benefits, will they not accept? Do you want them to remain like that for 100 years, collecting firewood and tendu leaves,” Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Ranjan Gogoi asked solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran.
The Centre’s law officer was defending a 2010 environment ministry decision to ban mining activity in the region.
The court wondered what could be the objection of the tribals in blending with modernity if the state, which has contested the bar, and the project owners pumped money into welfare measures like hospitals, schools and other employment avenues.
Parasaran told the court that mining had been halted to protect the environment and tribal habitats and that the forest rights act of 2006 gave the tribals a right to livelihood.
Justice Alam questioned the argument by saying “we don’t really understand what the tribals require”.
“What if the area is developed and tribals are made aware. If a large number of tribals say we want to live and stay here, that may be a different situation, nevertheless that is an important consideration. But if the tribals say they want schools, colleges, employment and hospitals, can we say no, you can’t get it? Will this court be right in saying you will not have any schools or such facilities?”
Parasaran argued that the cultural and ethnic rights of tribals could not be destroyed in the name of development. “You cant’ seek to dissect religion and customs,” he said.
Justice Radhakrishnan observed: “It is doubtful whether the religious right will come into question or not.”
The court then asked counsel Sanjay Parekh, appearing for some of the tribals, why he opposed the project. “Why are you fighting shy of giving them development. Do you want them to lead a life of abject poverty for the next 100 years?” Justice Gogoi asked.
Parekh cited the court’s recent order banning tourism in the Andamans to protect the Jarava tribe.
Arguments on the Odisha case will continue tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tribals oppose alternate mine to Vedanta

Business Standard, Feb 19, 2013

Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), an outfit of tribals agitating against the alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium (VAL) at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, on Tuesday sought Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s intervention to overturn the Odisha government’s plan to allocate alternate sources of bauxite to the project, which is reeling under acute shortage of raw material following denial of permission to mine in Niyamgiri Hill by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The Samiti aired its views through a 35 page memorandum addressed to Gandhi. A four member team of the tribals’ body later submitted the memorandum to Gandhi at Cuttack through their district congress president, Sadashiv Tripathy.

Raising slogans against VAL, Jairam Bariha, a Dongria Kondh of Ambaguda village in Kalahandi district said, “We oppose state government’s decision to allow mining in Niyamgiri or any other nearby hill as these hills are homes to scores of Dongria Kondh and Kutira Kondh tribes.

Bariha said, “We came to know that government is trying to arrange alternative sources of bauxite for Vedanta”.

He said, mining should not be allowed in the nearby Kandurumali, Sijumali, Sasubahumali, Karlapat reserves as these provide livelihood to the tribals inhabiting these hills.

“The effluent discharged by the company has led to deaths of our livestock and the government’s decision will destroy the numerous perennial streams. These reserves should not be given to any company including Vedanta”, said Bama Kadraka, another member of NSS. Gandhi had expressed his solidarity with the tribals, who were opposing Vedanta's plan to extract bauxite from the Niyamgiri hill for use in its alumina refinery during his visit to Kalahandi district in 2010.

It may be noted VAL, which has shut down its one million tone alumina refinery in Lanjigarh since December 5 for want of bauxite, had entered into a pact with the state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for bauxite supply from Niyamgiri. However, this was red flagged by MoEF, which scrapped the stage-II forest clearance of the mining project on August 24, 2010.

Unable to find bauxite reserves VAL has urged the state government to expedite processing of OMC’s pending applications, especially for those bauxite leases that fall in non-forest areas.

God’ poser for Vedanta

The Telegraph (Kolkata), Feb 20, 2013
New Delhi, Feb. 19: The Supreme Court today put some searching questions to the Vedanta group and the Odisha government, asking whether they could “banish God” and “destroy the faith of the tribals” who deem sacred a hill picked for bauxite mining.
The bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Ranjan Gogoi asked whether “you can dig out the Nizamuddin Dargah or the dargah at Ajmer” when the Naveen Patnaik government insisted the Niyamgiri Hills was its property and contested the tribals’ belief that God existed there.
“Even if nothing is there, you can’t destroy the faith of those people. We are not talking about the entire hills but the highest point where the tribals believe their God exists. They believe he is on the hilltop. Can you tell them take away your God to another place? Are you banishing the God?” the bench asked.
The Union ministry of environment and forests had in 2010 cancelled the state’s permission for the mining on the ground that green norms and the tribals’ special rights to occupation and worship had been violated.
The judges today posed the queries after senior state counsel Aryaman Sundaram assailed the ministry’s decision and said there was no record or proof to show any temple or tangible idol that the tribals worshipped on the hilltop.
The court said it would be appropriate for the company and the state to seek the consent of the gram sabha for the mining activities as mandated under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
“Under the act, the gram sabha has to decide the issue. Its consent has to be obtained, why should we interfere? Why did you put the cart before the horse?” Justice Alam, heading the bench, asked.
Sundaram argued that while prior consent was essential, it was not “imperative”. “Consent is not imperative at all. I am the state government, it is mine. I can’t be prevented from taking up industrial activities.”
The judges then asked what would happen to the faith of the tribals for whom the hilltop was sacred. “For them it is faith. Can you dig out the Nizamuddin Dargah or the dargah at Ajmer?” the court asked.
Sundaram responded by saying the hilltop did not give tribals any right to worship and that “the hill is not sacrosanct”. The court retorted: “Yes, nothing is sacrosanct except bauxite mining!”
Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran will tomorrow begin arguments putting forward the Centre’s position. But the ministry had earlier opposed the state’s claim that there is no habitat on the hills.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

State's 238-crore plan for Sunabeda under study, says Jairam

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), Feb 17, 2013

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said the Centre was considering State Government’s proposal for developing Sunabeda sanctuary in Maoist-hit Nuapada district.
“Centre has been actively considering the State Government’s  Rs 238-crore plan for overall development of Sunabeda which has turned into a Maoist hub.
An amount of Rs  57 crore has been sanctioned by the Centre to strengthen 120 km of rural roads in Nuapada district, he said, while addressing a Congress workers’ convention here. He said the cash benefit under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) would be enhanced to Rs 75,000 from the existing  Rs 48,000 meant for hilly and difficult areas from April this year.
“The 4,000 families who have been identified by the district administration of residing on forest land and issued land rights under the Forest Rights Act would be provided with houses under IAY,” he said.
Admitting Nuapada as one of the 18 Maoist-infested districts, the Union Minister said that rural development of the district was of prime importance. Calling upon the workers to strengthen the party, he said it had been noticed that wherever political organisation is weak, Maoists have established themselves.
“The biggest enemy of Congress is Congress itself. Unity in the rank and file of the party is the need of the hour ahead of the 2014 polls,” he said. Jairam went round the 11.7-km PMGSY road from Kadomeri to Kermeli village besides a community tank being dug up under MGNREGS in Salhiya village.
‘I am against mining’
Addressing mediapersons later in the day, Jairam said he was against mining in tribal-dominated areas. Maoists had earlier accused the Union Minister of working for capitalists and favouring mining.
He said tribals are being displaced again and again and devoid of rightful compensation. “There was need to bring in new land acquisition act and separate governance model in tribal areas to ensure that they get proper education and health,” he said.
Elaborating on the Rs 100-crore dole for the district, Jairam said that while  Rs 37.50 crore will be spent on the Integrated Watershed Management Programme to provide irrigation to 25,000 hectares, Rs  22 crore   for 3,000 houses to BPL families under IAY, ` 40 crore for strengthening rural connectivity and Rs 10 crore for development of women SHGs.